With the great support of Bandai Namco Entertainment UK and Germany, we had the honor to experience this first look at playing Tales of Arise for the PC! Featuring Tales Ambassadors Shiina and Lex!
Thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment UK and Germany, Tales Ambassadors Shiina and Lex got to experience firsthand playing Tales of Arise! We'd like to extend our utmost gratitude to them for helping us out with this article! Note that the game they played was a preview build, and not the full build of the game, hence some features may have not been available yet. A summarized video version is also available below:
As this trial mainly lets us experience the battle system first-hand, let’s start the report here. Note that for this hands-on, Shiina played using a PS4 controller, while Lex played using the mouse + keyboard.
In the beginning, you would be asked to pick one of the playable characters, but it was possible to switch between them both for battle and on-screen character at any time. We believe the character selection screen was more of a demo-only thing, most likely. It would only affect which tutorial box for their character-specific feature would pop up, which is their Boost Attacks.
For example, with Rinwell you can hold and delay the activation of her magic after casting, and for dodging enemy attacks Dohalim's staff will extend – similar to Leia's in Tales of Xillia. Shionne's Boost Attack downs flying enemies and makes them available for a set amount of time.
|Shiina||It may seem trivial but I like that you can still pick your on-screen character separate from your choice for battle. I also love small details like Rinwell panting slightly when you have her running around on-screen, which may stem from her not being used to moving around that much. I, unfortunately, didn’t figure out yet how to fast-swap the controlled character within battle, but looking at official videos it should be possible.|
|Lex||I also failed to fast-swap the characters but I did try, and I think this option will prove to be a lot of fun during the fights. I’m the kind that usually sticks with the same controlled characters or party throughout my game - but whenever the game allows me to swap during the fight, I always use it a lot. Here I think it’s going to be a great plus, especially considering the double-attacks and special attacks. I like the feeling I’m not just playing one single character but the whole party.|
The overall battle controls are both familiar yet new. Basic attacks were triggered with the mouse button, or for those with controllers, R1 for PlayStation and RB for Xbox. Free-run is possible by default, the base combo would be three regular attacks and staple artes like Demon Fang and First Aid are of course part of the repertoire. Above the character's HP are their Attack Points, which work in a similar fashion to the CC in Tales of Graces. There is also Overlimit and Mystic Artes.
Instead of pressing one arte button + directional button to alternate between attacks, three out of four buttons – the last one is for jumping – are linked to six set artes: Three ground, and three aerial. In the artes menu, there is an indicator of whether an arte will be taking you up or down, not leaving it entirely up to chance to be airbound or not.
As Lex mentioned before, by using the digital pad you can activate special attacks or BOOST STRIKES of each of your party members, if the blue STRIKE is shown it will even change into a short combination attack of two characters. The trial had only three combinations, but there will be more in the game - some of them have even been shown already.
I felt that the battle system is more focused on aerial combat which people who like doing elaborate combos should enjoy. It is entirely possible to stay on the ground though and just smash your way through.
Personally, I think that there are not enough arte buttons available without needing to change via the menu, although there isn’t really much you can do about it due to the lack of buttons overall (laughs). I don’t know how I will think about this while playing, I did not change the pre-set during the trial.
Also, while the combination attacks look cool and the animation is comparably short, I think it might still be a bit too flashy considering how often you are able to activate them.
|Shiina||I once entered Overlimit but failed to activate the Mystic Arte, the CPU managed once. I’ve seen many disappointed at the lack of cut-ins, I personally feel neutral about it. I both respect the choice of the developers to leave them out if it doesn’t suit their image, but I also think that they could have added them as an optional feature that is disabled by default but could be enabled.|
I stayed mostly on the ground for my part until I realized I could do air-combos (or more like ended-up into it by chance (laugh)), and both were fun to experiment with. At first, I didn’t dislike the fact the number of artes was limited since I’m the kind easily overwhelmed during fights, but this is where swapping the controlled character will probably turn out to be useful and add more to the fights to counter the limited number of artes (or should I say buttons - Shiina is right).
The combination attacks were really cool and I enjoyed them a lot, but I’m afraid the animation could be a bit too much over time since they really do happen very frequently. They reminded me of the joined-attacks in Persona 5 Royal - albeit shorter -, which I loved but also eventually started to skip. Only time will be able to tell for that part!
Another new feature would be the ability to use Perfect Dodge: If you get the timing right, you don't take damage and are even able to counterattack! There is a dedicated button for it – but it may feel like a regular backstep if the timing is off.
Enemies also can have weak points, if you hit them, they take more damage or can also be stunned. Sometimes those points can be targeted directly, although in the trial you had to adjust the position yourself for the boss fight.
The biggest change surely would be the addition of CP: Cure Points. There is only one gauge for your entire party and it is only depleted when using heal or support artes. Unlike attack points, CP will not be restored over time. It either requires the use of items or resting at an inn/camping out.
|Shiina||Due to CP not restoring without help, I think the game may be encouraging players to use dodging. Aiming for the weak spot also may make battles a bit more tactical, at least if you want them to: People who can’t seem to get used to battles, don’t like them, or just want to enjoy the story can do so by changing the difficulty.|
Instead of “Easy” the difficulty is called “Story”, for people who want to enjoy the story and not get stuck with battles. I checked out Story, Normal, and Moderate myself and could tell there was a clear difference, especially between Story and Normal, at least for the boss fight as normal fights were balanced. You would do more damage to the enemy and less to you on Story Mode. Between Normal and Moderate, the major difference was that enemy attacks hurt even more. I actually had to use fewer items for the boss fight on Moderate compared to Normal as I got used to fighting after a while and settled in on a character I could control well.
Personally, I felt that perfect dodge in Ys8 I played earlier this year worked better, but since my playing time highly differs as of now, it is probably simply too early to judge. That game also had no healer at all, hooray items...
|Lex||Something I really enjoyed myself was the interaction between the characters, both during the fights but also outside on the field (which wasn’t new since we got it in Zestiria and Berseria). It was fun to hear them exchange lines, sometimes really funny ones, and it makes up for the lack of victory skits in my opinion, at least for me. They serve the same purpose after all since the funniest victory skits often are because of the exchange between the characters.|
Moving onward to field exploration, it will be familiar to anyone who has played Tales of Xillia/2, Zestiria, or Berseria with a fully movable camera as well as search and interaction points on the map. Search points are not entirely random: if you stand next to a plant you might get herbs or berries, if you approach a cow you will get milk! Since Arise introduced the ability to swim as well, you may also catch fish while in water.
Depending on what you would pick up, the character might actually do the motion to lift it from the ground instead of just receiving the item by clicking. Each character opens up chests with their own special motion or reacts when jumping down a cliff or getting out of water. As mentioned by Lex above, there are also interactions between the characters on the map as well as in battle.
Aside from your party, the enemies are closer connected to the environment as usual: Whether it be a monster giving off electricity while in water, or a golem moving out of the earth to attack you on sight. While you still enter a separate battlefield when you come into contact with monsters, there are now markers on your screen if there are any enemies nearby in a certain direction outside of your field of vision.
Near a fireplace, it is possible to camp out, which restores HP, CP and also lets you use cooking! If a character is good at a certain dish, the effects may change. For example, the duration shortens but the effect it gives is stronger.
|Lex||Regarding the markers: If you like to avoid fights just to progress the story faster, you’ll still be able to run away from the monsters - or, at least try to, since it’s not guaranteed you can escape them. But they’re also easily spottable if you wish to fight for experience, or just want to fight everything you encounter anyway, so this is the perfect mix in my opinion.|
|Lex||The environment lacked the sort of cartoon touch we used to have in previous Tales titles, but it was very colorful and pretty and overall extremely enjoyable. My favorite surprise of this demo was seeing a farm of buusagis/rappigs!! I squealed and jumped around them for a couple of minutes, haha. The immersion still felt very Tales to me, thanks to all these kinds of details. I didn’t feel like they intend to give the game super realistic graphics (like some of us might have feared over the initial videos or announcements) but only the intention of giving a Tales of game prettier graphics. Which is, in this demo, achieved. Berseria already felt so very pretty, but Arise is stepping up its game even more.|
|Lex||It doesn’t mean it’s not a “Tales of” game anymore though… The characters are still weirded out by finding Apple Gel in strange places 😀|
Again I enjoyed the little details, like the ones Lex just mentioned, but there are really too many to name even in such a short demo. A few examples would be Shionne sneezing when getting out of the water, or Rinwell tripping after jumping down, worrying if anyone saw her mess up.
Compared to most footage we have been shown before, like the Calaglia wasteland and Cyslodia snow area, the one in the trial is much more colorful and has distinctly different subparts, like a ranch. The graphics may be somewhat realistic looking but retain a soft feeling. I personally thought it looks much like a charming picture book which I did not feel at all when just watching the videos available. I had not watched many videos before, but it was still a pleasant surprise. Also, the water and especially light effects! As the sun was setting and I jumped into a river to swim, the reflection of the afternoon sun was just stunning.
Time in-game seemed to pass and the lighting changed accordingly - I didn’t observe it for a longer period of time but it might be interesting to check that out!
The most important thing I have learned from this trial was that despite everything, the game feels like a Tales game to me. I wasn’t sure before, but I did not want to judge, as I have been mistaken on that back when Tales of Xillia was still in the works.
I know that “which parts make a Tales feel like a Tales” will differ between people. But for me at least, it felt like one. I mostly credit this to the characters, but also many of the small things we said before. The trailers are not enough.
The strongest opinion friends seemed to have recently was the lack of multiplayer, but having played for a couple of hours myself, I feel it would have been impossible to add it to the game as it is without destroying the current flow. I am aware it is easy for me to say, given that I have been playing 85% of Tales games alone, but that was my impression. The battle system is optimized for single player, even if it is a shame.
As for Victory quotes... They could have been added - BUT. As Lex stated before, the characters talked so much during battle that I honestly didn’t miss them myself.
The thing I had the most trouble getting used to was having R1 (the top right shoulder button on whatever controller you use, I’m a PS player) as the default attack. We can fully customize the buttons, so I might consider changing them when I play for real.
Since we played the game via stream, I cannot say much regarding loading times and graphics between the versions. I set it to the highest specs and it was quite fast with everything, I didn’t really have issues. If anything at all, I noticed that while camping, the loading of detailed textures on the character clothes seemed to not be able to catch up. Based on my experience with Final Fantasy XIV and Genshin Impact, I would expect loading times to generally be longer on PS4 than PS5/PC, but both are played online so my assumption may be off, take that with a grain of salt.
Last but not least: I can’t play Shionne to save my life.
And: Rinwell & Law banter is my jam.
I have nothing but gratitude for this opportunity to make me look forward to the game at least three times as much as I did before. Thank you BNE.
I’m pretty bad at putting words and explanations on my feedback unlike Shiina, so I’ll go to the conclusion based on my feelings: I enjoyed playing this demo. I expected it to feel foreign, but it actually didn’t.
When I first started playing Xillia, I spent my first couple of hours mumbling to myself that it didn’t feel like a Tales of game, and that Graces f was so much better. Looking back on it I feel pretty stupid, but that’s just how I felt back then - it didn’t last very long, though. Both Xillias now are among my favorite Tales. So maybe Xillia is exactly why I dived into Arise trying to be as open-minded as possible. I had my fears like everyone else, no matter what I told myself: they were actually the very reason I tried to keep that open mind.
|Lex||It turned out, however, that I didn’t need to open it that much. After fighting with the controls a bit, I finally started to enjoy the game and immediately was pulled in by familiar details. The funny comments or exchanges by the characters, the rappigs… It quickly made me feel at home. I didn’t expect to start to like the characters based on a short demo with barely any story in it - but I did!|
|Lex||Visually speaking it looked very pretty, despite the fact the streaming platform we had to use to test it made it a bit pixelated on my screen. Fun fact: my partner has been making fun of the graphics of my Tales of games for years now because no matter how pretty they are, they’re always kinda “below” the best graphics we can have at the moment. I never minded, to be honest, but I can’t say he was entirely wrong. But this time, I can’t wait for him to have a look at Arise and tell me that it’s pretty because I’m pretty sure he won’t have any other choice! (let’s see that in September :D)|
|Lex||If you still have your doubts about the game (which is understandable), I would still beg you to give it a chance if you can. I have a feeling we will be pleasantly surprised with Arise. At least I was, and my excitement to play the game really went over the roof after that demo. I know I’ll be putting down my other games when Arise comes out, which I wasn’t sure I would do at first.|
Tales of Ariseis now available for pre-order at the following shops: North America: